John McNeil joins the Greenock Morton Hall of Fame

Greenock Morton are delighted to welcome John McNeil to the Hall of Fame! John will will be inducted as the fourth member of the Greenock Morton Hall of Fame Class of 2024.

John McNeil bio by Niall McGilp

An “S” Form signing in 1973, John moved from Cowal Boys’ Club to join Morton in July 1975. He played at Cappielow for 16 years, making 402 appearances and scoring 81 goals. Blessed with a wonderful left foot, John was a skilful attacking player, who could operate in midfield, as a winger or striker, creating and scoring goals. He is seventh in the all-time list of Morton appearances.

Aged just 16, John scored in his first Morton appearance in a friendly against Huddersfield Town, hours after joining the club; it was a beautiful left-foot shot from outside the penalty box. His competitive debut came a month later; his final appearance was on 8th August 1990, aged 31. In 1983, there was a one-month loan to Dundee United, but only one substitute appearance; and later that season, another trial period with Arsenal. Rumours of a big move were common, such as the 1980 press reports of an imminent transfer to Newcastle.

During his Morton career, John, or “Peanuts” as he was nicknamed, won three League titles, with Benny Rooney’s exciting 1977/78 squad, Tommy McLean’s 1983/84 Champions, and Allan McGraw’s 1986/87 team; he played a significant part in each campaign. He is one of only two Morton players to be a triple champion, the other being team-mate Jim Holmes.

A teenager in 1977/78, John was just breaking into the first team, a resurgent Morton going all the way, winning promotion to the Premier League as Champions. He made 20 appearances, many as a substitute. One highlight was a stunning solo effort against Aberdeen in a Cup Quarter Final replay at Cappielow, Morton coming close to causing an upset.

During five years in the Premier Division, McNeil became a first-team regular, making 169 appearances and scoring 25 goals. TV highlights from 1979, show him scoring and providing an assist as Morton beat Partick 4-1 at Firhill, just a week after his low cross from Andy Ritchie’s free kick, set up Bobby Thomson’s winner against Celtic at Cappielow. Great memories! However, he was carried off with a serious injury in the League Cup semi-final against Aberdeen and missed the next three months of action.

The Premier League sojourn ended in 1983, but Morton bounced back, John teaming up with new striking partners Dougie Robertson and Willie Pettigrew; he was Morton’s top league scorer with 17 goals, 19 in all competitions, his best tally in a season. His only senior hat-trick came in September 1983, at Starks Park; the press said that John “stamped his class all over the match, with two of his strikes in the “goal-of-the-season category”.

Allan McGraw took over as manager in 1985, and John had another two productive seasons, netting 14 and 12 goals in 1985/86 and 1986/87 as Morton (and Peanuts) won a third League Championship in 10 years. The attacking trio of Robertson, McNeil and Alexander scored 56 goals in all competitions. In a crunch, televised game at East End Park, Morton got the better of title rivals Dunfermline Athletic, John slotting home the winner from the penalty spot. That was his 74th goal in his 346th appearance for the club.

He played on for three more seasons, but, moving into the 1990/91 season, he only appeared in the first four games of the season, passing the 400-appearance milestone, before his final appearance in his Testimonial Match in September against Rangers watched by 3,500 fans. It was a fitting way to bring the curtain down on what had been a distinguished Morton career for this most talented of players.

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